14.1 Modern Human Variability
• The historical view was to create discrete and distinct categories: "Race"
○ C. Linnaeus (mid-1700s)was perhaps the first to try to classify modern humans
○ Races were thought to reflect differences in personality and cognitive abilities, etc.
○ Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (German anatomist late 1700sto early 1800s)
▪ Mainly on the basis of cranial shape, he recognized five races
□ Mongolian, American, Caucasian, African, Malayan
▪ He didn't differentiate the categories the same way Linnaeus did
○ Anders Retzius (1840s)developedthe Cephalic Index
▪ Cephalic index = breadth of skull divided by length of skull X100
□ <75 =dolicocephalic
□ 75-79.9 =mesocephalic
□ 80-84.9 = -4.9 brachycephalic
□ >85 = hyperbrachycephalic
○ Carleton Coon may have originated the most recent version of five races:
▪ Caucasoid, Mongoloid,Australoid, Negroid, Capoid
○ Social Evolution: the misconceptionthat cultures evolvelike organisms and that this
evolutionis moving towards more advanced forms
▪ This led to the concept of biological determinism: Cultural variability was seen as
biologically determined, and thereforeinherited in the same way that physical
▪ The idea that people of visibly different geographic origin have intrinsic, biologically
determined differences in behaviour and intelligence is known as racism
▪ This belief in superiority and inferiority among humans led to eugenics movementsin
many Western countries.
• Race and Intelligence
○ The most damaging misconceptionthat has accompanied racial views is that "races" differ in
▪ Example: 1994 book "The Bell Curve"
▪ There is no reliable evidence to suggest that intelligence varies with skin colour or
geographic origin at all
• The concept of Race today
○ Race = geographic region? Culture or nationality? Religious affiliation?
○ The most commonand prevalent use is in the biological sense. "Race" = visible physical
distinctions associatedwith broad geographic regions
○ The Problem with the Normative View
▪ The normativeview is that items or membersof different groups are presumed to be
characterized by discrete traits and can be easily divided into discrete categories.
▪ Anthropologists were seeing continuous (not discrete) distributions of traits across
"racial" boundaries and geographic regions
▪ All the traits we can see (as well as genetic traits that are not visible) which have been
used to differentiate "races" have a clinal distribution
▪ Most traits are polygenic: they are controlled by multiple genes
▪ Most traits are also polymorphic: there are more than two different genotypes (more
than 2 alleles for each trait)
• DNA and Race
○ There is more variability within any one geographic population than there is between any of
○ Individuals with a commongeographic ancestry will share some characteristicsthat may
visibly distinguish them from individuals from other geographic regions